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Comment by Stephen McPeek on April 25, 2017 at 8:15am

Navigating Grief – a Prologue

Stephen McPeek

As I lay in bed reading Time Magazine’s interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg titled “Life After Death,” a riveting introduction to Sandberg’s book “Option B -   Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” which she wrote after the sudden and painful death of her beloved husband, I thought about my Aunt Leota who will lay Uncle Dick to rest this Thursday. Everything in me reverberates when I read an article like this and the all too familiar emotions climb up to my throat. It is a strange mixture of peace and pain, unknown and familiar, valley and mountaintop all wrapped up in one. I feel like know Sheryl, like we could sit together to share personal lessons of grief with one another and with the world.

One does not choose grief and loss to be a major life topic. The topic chooses you. It stirs you, turns you inside out, kicks you in the gut, and embraces you warmly, and it changes you again and again and again.

So many people I know are dying or losing loved ones. All around us there is death in the news – tragic deaths in Syria, Sweden, Iraq, Germany, Egypt. The thought of the collective grief and loss of a community when many people have been killed at the same time is overwhelming and almost unfathomable. How do people survive such loss?

Phil Deutsch, a close friend of Sheryl Sandberg and her husband Dave Goldberg, describes the way he experienced Sheryl in the hospital as follows: “The wails of her crying in that hospital were unlike anything that I’d ever heard in my life. It was an awful, awful scene.” Whether you are a person of great wealth like Sandberg, or a person of great poverty like many of those losing loved ones in Syria, the pain of grief and loss is the same. It is awful and terrible and like Sandberg describes, “When I lost my husband, I lost my bearings.” How do you find your bearings after you have lost them?

The date of my Uncle’s funeral, April 20th, marks the 11th year of the death of my dear wife Anuhea. Things have gotten better although the word APRIL is enough to throw my soul off balance. Like Sandberg, I lost my bearings and for a long time, I wandered through the wilderness and tried to live as best as I could, mostly motivated by the necessity of caring for a child. I have done my “Trauerarbeit” – my work of grieving.  The pain is no longer acute like it was for a few years after her death. There is peace and there are many deep lessons of the soul that have emerged. And yet, the tears are always right under the surface of my skin. And I feel very close to those who are in their process of coming to grips with the only certainty on earth: everyone will die.

What lesson can I share for today?

None…The lessons of my soul are my lessons. All I have to share are my experiences and thoughts, and my warm caring arms to those in need of a silent but understanding embrace. When I see that look in your eyes, you will also see the look in my eyes and without a single word, we know. 

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